As the mercury rises each summer, it creates two types of gundogs: Those that sit on the couch and enter hunting season fat and out of shape, and those with owners who find smart, safe ways to get them exercise. Guess which dog will hunt harder and longer?The risk of summer exercise is, of course, heat stroke, which we can avoid with a little care. So, here are a few tips for safe, effective summer exercise.
Wet Him Down
Dogs as a species are susceptible to heat stroke. Not just because they’re covered in fur (which I recommend shaving in the summer months), but because they lack sweat glands. So, help him out: Thoroughly wet your dog’s coat with cool water before any type of summer exercise. This pseudo perspiration can make all the difference in the world.
Plenty of Water
Your dog needs plenty of water on the inside, too. Keep it handy and offer it to him often during summer workouts. Sound like commonsense? You wouldn’t believe how many people overlook this step.
In keeping with our water theme, retrieves in a cool pond are a fantastic summer workout. Swimming is a great aerobic activity that exercises the heart and lungs while keeping the dog cool. However, you still have to be smart about it. Incidences of heat stroke have occurred in dogs participating in water workouts in warm ponds.
Train in the Morning
It’s best to avoid training in the mid-afternoon during the day’s peak heat. Morning training sessions are better than evenings, as even a slight dew covering the ground improves scenting conditions.
Smart Bird Work
You can do bird work during the summer, but it requires diligence and a combination of the tips mentioned above. Train in the morning, wet your dog down, offer him water throughout and keep the runs short. Given the scent-sapping summer heat, you can also offer the dog certain advantages, such as using pigeons (which won’t run off) and quartering the dog into the wind to improve scenting. Some people don’t do any bird work in the peak-heat months. Professional trainer Mike Wallace of Salmy Acres Kennel says this is a mistake.
“When the dogs learn to find birds in summer conditions, it almost makes it easy for them in fall conditions,” he says. “You have to be careful, but train—by all means, train.”
As long as you adhere to these tactics, keep the workouts short and watch for any warning signs of heat stroke, you can exercise your dog safely all summer long. Come fall, he’ll be fetching doves and running down pheasants while the couch dogs are sucking air.